NSW drought summit day 1 focuses on mental health, resilience


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Drought talks taking place near Newcastle have been “an eye-opening experience” and “a great opportunity” to create change, according to attendees from the region. Day 1 of the NSW Youth Drought Summit, hosted by children’s charity UNICEF, had a big focus on mental health, Loomberah girl Caitlin Blanch said. It allowed the teens and young adults to “ask questions and receive quality answers about how to cope with the drought”. “[It] has broadened my perspective to different situations faced by the youth of the drought,” Caitlin, 14, said. Read also: “We have met with the Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women. We also had a panel of different people who have educated us about their occupations and how that relates to the drought … “Mental health has been a big factor of this experience and has taught many about its importance.” The summit at Lake Macquarie will wind up on Friday with recommendations to policy-makers. The participants are aged between 14 and 24 and have come from across the state to have their say on how drought affects their lives and communities. Caroona’s Sarah Hutchins, 15, said some talking points from today had been “mental health, resilience, water restrictions in our community, and the problem that we are faced with: drought”. “I have learnt how to remain resilient and have a positive mental health, and how the government is helping my generation for the support we really need in this drought,” Sarah said. “We are learning to put our ideas to help our communities into action, which I believe will be a great opportunity for someone like me who is willing to make change. “Overall, the summit so far has really opened my eyes up to how we are all in the same boat, we’re all facing the worst drought and we, as the next generation, are the decision-makers for the future.” Armidale resident Piyumi Ekanayake said she was “learning so much” from the speakers and her peers. “[It has] made me realise that every individual experiences the drought in a different way, and it is important to recognise and understand that,” she said. “We have to create new methods to solve these rising consequences of the drought, because doing the same old thing gets us stuck we have to be different and brainstorm new approaches.”

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